Coronavirus latest news: Under-40s vaccine hesitancy behind JCVI advice change on AstraZeneca, GP says

·21-min read
Under-40s vaccine hesitancy behind JCVI advice change on AstraZeneca, GP says - Liam McBurney/PA
Under-40s vaccine hesitancy behind JCVI advice change on AstraZeneca, GP says - Liam McBurney/PA

Younger people's hesitancy to get vaccinated is understood to be behind the change in policy which will see under-40s be offered an alternative to AstraZeneca, a GP has said.

Dr Amir Khan told ITV's Good Morning Britain that the low Covid infection and death rates in the UK had resulted in younger people being less prepared to get their jabs due to an extremely rare side-effect of blood clotting.

He said: "They [JCVI] have recognised there is some vaccine hesitancy in the younger age groups and they think that some of that may be worry around these extremely rare blood clots associated with low platelets.

"So to help combat some of that hesitancy the JCVI are poised to announced this new announcement that people under the age of 40 will be offered Pfizer or Moderna."

The recommendation is to be made out of "an abundance of caution", and the announcement is expected later on Friday.

​​Follow the latest updates below.

10:55 AM

Blood clot risk after AZ jab 'extremely small'

There is an "extremely small risk" of people suffering blood clots after having the AstraZeneca jab and the benefits outweigh the risk for most people, regulators have said.

Dr June Raine, chief executive of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), said: "Public safety is always at the forefront of our minds and we take every report seriously.

"Our position remains that the benefits of the Covid-19 vaccine AstraZeneca against Covid-19, with its associated risk of hospitalisation and death, continues to outweigh the risks for the vast majority of people.

"The balance of benefits and risks is very favourable for older people but is more finely balanced for younger people and we advise that this evolving evidence should be taken into account when considering the use of the vaccine, as JVCI has done."

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10:44 AM

Under 40s will be given alternative to AZ jab, regulator confirms

Adults aged under 40 will be offered an alternative coronavirus vaccine to the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab amid concerns of rare blood clots, Britain's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has confirmed.

For those aged 30 to 39, this alternative should be offered where possible, and as long as it does not delay or prove a barrier to accessing a vaccine, JCVI advised in a briefing this lunchtime.

Prof Wei Shen Lim, from the JCVI, said: "Safety remains our number one priority.

"As Covid-19 rates continue to come under control, we are advising that adults aged 18 - 39 years with no underlying health conditions are offered an alternative to the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, if available, and if it does not cause delays in having the vaccine.

"The advice is specific to circumstances in the UK at this time and maximises use of the wide portfolio of vaccines available."

10:30 AM

Tony Blair teams up with scientists to tackle future pandemics

An institute headed by the former prime minister, Tony Blair, has joined forces with Oxford scientists and a US cancer research group to study the Covid pandemic and the health crises of tomorrow, writes Jennifer Rigby.

The team has established the Global Health Security Consortium, made up of the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, the Ellison Institute for Transformative Medicine, and a team of Oxford scientists.

Its aim is to provide "insight, analysis and support" to help leaders deal with the current, and future pandemics.

Tony Blair - Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Tony Blair - Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

“We have seen that viruses do not respect borders. Our approach will always remain global, our agenda single-minded: to help leaders contain this pandemic as quickly as possible for all of humanity, and ensure nothing like it ever happens again. We have no choice,” said Tony Blair and Dr David Agus, head of the Ellison Institute.

10:16 AM

No 'big increase' in package holidays ahead of green list reveal

Prices for summer breaks have not been ramped up ahead of the Government's announcement of the "green list" for travel, the UK's largest holiday firm insisted.

Tui's managing director for the UK and Ireland, Andrew Flintham, said it will be "a long time" before travel companies can consider boosting profit margins. He told the BBC:

Our prices are very, very stable. They're pretty much like for like, flat, year over year. There isn't a big increase in there. We've got plenty of holidays to sell. I think everybody in the industry has. It'll be a long time before the idea of trying to increase prices to make more money. We want to get people away on holiday, having a great time, because we think they genuinely all deserve it.

The Government will shortly announce its quarantine-free "green list" for summer getaways. More on that here.

09:58 AM

Calls to ban Nazi-style yellow stars worn by Covid-sceptics in Germany

The German government's anti-Semitism commissioner has called for a ban on the use of Nazi-style yellow stars at demonstrations, writes Justin Huggler in Berlin.

Coronavirus sceptics have adopted the yellow star of David which Jews were forced to wear under the Nazis as a symbol of protest against vaccination.

Their use of the star has been widely condemned as inappropriate and disrespectful to victims of the Holocaust.

“When people use so-called Jewish stars at demonstrations and thus make comparisons that relativize the Holocaust, it’s time for a legal ban,” Felix Klein, the anti-Semitism commissioner said. Coronavirus sceptics and anti-vaxxers have taken to wearing the star with the word Jude, or “Jew”, replaced with Ungeimpft, which means “unvaccinated”.

The city of Munich has already imposed a ban on the use of the stars at demonstrations, and Mr Klein called on local authorities across Germany to follow its example. “Indifference is our greatest enemy,” he said.

“We need a vigilant, defensive, courageous civil society.”

09:32 AM

Main vaccine concerns are if they are safe and/or necessary

The main concerns of people who are hesitant about getting a coronavirus jab are around the vaccines being safe or necessary, according to research.

People who were uncertain about getting a jab, or who were unwilling or unable, had given "considerable thought" to the prospect and were not 'anti-vaccers', the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

All gave one of two key reasons - that they did not trust the vaccines were safe, and they did not feel the vaccines were necessary for them.

Fifty in-depth interviews were carried out in February and March by IFF Research for the ONS to explore the attitudes of people hesitant about getting the vaccine.

The sample included 30 people who were unwilling, 16 who were uncertain and four who were unable to get a jab.

09:02 AM

Watch | The best Zoom thing since Jackie Weaver

A State Senator was on Zoom and tried to convince others on the call that he was in the office when he was in fact driving.

Andrew Brenner, Republican lawmaker from Ohio, had seemingly forgotten that his seatbelt was still clearly visible.

And the kicker...the call was to discuss harsher penalties for distracted drivers.

08:43 AM

Deaths in 2020 14pc above five-year average

The number of deaths registered in England and Wales in 2020 was 14.3% above the average for the previous five years, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has confirmed.

A total of 607,922 deaths were registered, compared with an average of 532,077 in 2015-19.

This means there were 75,845 extra deaths, or "excess deaths".

Covid-19 was responsible for 97% of these excess deaths, the ONS said.

08:42 AM

'Strong' increase in UK construction firm activity last month

UK construction firms reported a "strong" increase in activity last month as coronavirus restrictions continued to ease, according to new figures.

The closely followed IHS Markit/CIPS Purchasing Managers' Index recorded a score of 61.6 in April, showing a marginal slowdown in growth from its March figure of 61.7.

Any figure above 50 in the index represents growth.

08:39 AM

Cepi sign agreement to boost raw vaccine materials available for Covax jabs

An expanded agreement that could make more raw vaccine materials available for manufacturers has been signed between Dynavax Technologies and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations - a key partner behind the global Covax vaccine scheme, writes Sarah Newey.

While it sounds dry, the agreement could help ease chronic shortages in vaccine supply lower and middle income countries worldwide.

Dynavax have agreed to increase the supply of a vaccine adjuvant, called CpG 1018, for Cepi-funded immunisation development programmes this year.

The deal means that Cepi will increase by $77 million the amount of investment it puts into Dynavax, in turn allowing the company to produce more adjuvant - which is a crucial component of many Covid-19 jabs. The funding is in the form of a "forgivable loan", which means it is repayable to Cepi upon adjuvant sales.

Cepi says vaccine developers that benefit from the agreement will make their doses available for the Covax scheme, which has ambitious targets to distribute two billion vaccines equitably across the globe by the end of the year.

As we previously reported, the scheme has been hard hit by vaccine export bans in India, with Africa affected dramatically.

08:20 AM

Germany: 'Third wave appears to be broken'

The third wave of the coronavirus pandemic appears to be broken, German Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Friday, as social distancing measures and an accelerating vaccination campaign help lower the infection rate.

"The third wave appears to be broken," Spahn told a regular weekly news briefing on Germany's pandemic management.

The head of the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases, Lothar Wieler, said the incidence of Covid-19 infections was falling across all age groups, and he was hopeful of soon controlling the pandemic in Germany.

07:43 AM

How rare are the blood clots?

Up to Apr 28, the MHRA had received 242 reports of blood clots accompanied by low blood platelet count in the UK, all in people who had AstraZeneca, out of around 28.5million doses given.

These clots occurred in 141 women and 100 men aged from 18 to 93, and the overall case death rate was 20%, with 49 deaths. Six cases have been reported after a second dose of the vaccine.

A particular type of brain blood clot - cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) - was reported in 93 cases (with an average age of 47), and 149 had other major thromboembolic events (average age 55) accompanied by low blood platelet count.

The MHRA and JCVI have both said that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine continue to "outweigh the risks for the vast majority of adults".

07:33 AM

Concern over spread of Indian Covid variants in the UK

A coronavirus strain first detected in India is likely to be elevated to a "variant of concern" after clusters were reportedly found in several areas of England.

Cases of the variant have been found in schools, care homes and places of worship in the North West, London and the East Midlands, largely linked to travel, Channel 4 News has reported.

The broadcaster said it is "highly likely" it will be declared a "variant of concern" on Friday, though cases remain relatively low.

Such a change can mean an escalation in response from Public Health England, including ordering surge testing.

India today reported a record daily rise in coronavirus cases of 414,188, while deaths increased by 3,915, according to health ministry data. India's total infections now stand at 21.49 million, while its total fatalities have reached 234,083.

07:18 AM

JCVI set to announce no AstraZeneca for under-40s today

The Government's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is set to announce today that over-40s are to be offered an alternative to AstraZeneca amid blood clot fears.

There is understood to be a recognition that younger people are more hesitant to get vaccinated due to the concerns over the rare side-effect coupled with the low rates in the UK.

Here is GP Dr Amir Khan on ITV's Good Morning Britain explaining the situation:

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07:04 AM

Australia will not extend controversial India travel ban

Australia will not extend a controversial ban on citizens returning from Covid-hit India, the prime minister said Friday following widespread public outrage.

Scott Morrison this week barred all travel from India, fearing a large number of Covid-positive arrivals would overwhelm Australia's already strained quarantine facilities.

The move stranded an estimated 9,000 Australian citizens and threatened them with large fines and jail time if they tried to dodge the ban and return on non-direct flights.

The conservative prime minister on Friday said that the measures would remain in place until May 15 as planned, but then repatriation flights could resume.

"The determination was designed to be a temporary measure and the medical advice... is that it will be safe to allow it to expire as planned on 15 May," he said.

06:53 AM

Which countries will be on green list?

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is expected to front a Downing Street briefing this evening where it is believed he will outline which countries are on which lists.

Red means a 10-day quarantine period at a Government-approved hotel upon return to England, amber means a 10-day quarantine period at home and green means a negative test for re-entry.

What destinations will be on the green list?

The Government will publish the list on Friday, but there is speculation it could include Portugal, Malta, Gibraltar and Israel.

How about the most popular destinations?

Summer favourites such as Spain, France, Italy and Greece are expected to be on the amber list initially.

06:32 AM

Today's front page

Here is your Daily Telegraph on Friday, May 7.

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05:54 AM

Japanese impatient over virus steps

Trains packed with commuters returning to work after a week-long national holiday. Frustrated young people drinking in the streets because bars are closed. Protests planned over a possible visit by the Olympics chief.

As coronavirus spreads in Japan ahead of the Tokyo Olympics starting in 11 weeks, one of the world's least-vaccinated nations is showing signs of strain, both societal and political.

Tokyo Olympics - Carl Court/Getty Images
Tokyo Olympics - Carl Court/Getty Images

The government - desperate to show a worried public it is in control of virus efforts even as it pushes a massive sporting event that a growing number of Japanese oppose hosting in a pandemic - is set today to expand and extend a state of emergency in Tokyo and other areas until May 31.

For Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, the emergency declaration is both a health measure and a political tightrope walk as domestic criticism rises of Japan's seeming determination to hold the Olympics, at any cost.

Tokyo - REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
Tokyo - REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

05:25 AM

Expert warns humans have created a 'perfect storm' for pandemics

The world's vast population of people, pets and livestock, and the pressure put on wildlife have created the "perfect storm" for pandemics, a researcher has warned.

There is an urgent need to control the evolution and transmission of diseases such as the virus that causes Covid-19 by using vaccine passports, boosting the genetic variation in livestock and reducing how much meat is eaten, according to Prof Cock Van Oosterhout, from the University of East Anglia.

In an editorial published in the journal Virulence, Prof Van Oosterhout warned of the need to halt the loss of natural habitats in wildlife-rich areas, to reduce human-wildlife conflict and prevent diseases spilling over into people and livestock.

Prof Van Oosterhout, professor of evolutionary genetics, said people need to cut back on meat and dairy to reduce livestock numbers, pointing to how methane from cattle and sheep contributes to global warming and to the dangers of antibiotic resistance, as well as the risk of pandemics.

He also backed the use of vaccine passports - and said compulsory vaccination may need to be considered - to break transmission chains and stop variants evolving.

05:00 AM

Coronavirus updates from around the world...

  • A new attempt to estimate the death toll of Covid-19 puts the number at 6.9 million globally, or more than double official counts. Dr Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington's School of Medicine, announced the estimates on Thursday.

  • India on Friday reported a record daily rise in coronavirus cases of 414,188, while deaths increased by 3,915, according to health ministry data. India's total infections now stand at 21.49 million, while its total fatalities have reached 234,083.

  • Australia will charter three repatriation flights from India between May 15 and 31, prioritising around 900 people deemed most vulnerable. The government estimates around 9,000 Australian citizens and permanent residents are in India. Prospective travellers will need to return a negative Covid test, and will be required to undertake the standard 14-day hotel quarantine imposed on incoming travellers.

  • Japan's government is set to extend on Friday a state of emergency in Tokyo and three other areas by about three weeks until the end of May to curb a surge in coronavirus cases just months before the start of the Tokyo Olympics.

  • New York City wants to begin offering coronavirus inoculations to tourists by stationing vaccination vans at Times Square and other attractions. Mayor Bill De Blasio called it "a positive message to tourists: 'Come here. It's safe, it's a great place to be and we're going to take care of you."'

04:46 AM

Exclusive: End of masks in the classroom

Boris Johnson will defy trade union pressure and announce on Monday that secondary school children will no longer have to wear face masks in class, The Telegraph understands.

The Prime Minister will confirm that the Government guidance is changing from May 17, when England moves into stage three of the reopening roadmap, according to multiple senior Whitehall sources.

Officials at the Department for Education are already drafting the new guidance, which will drop the recommendation that English secondary school pupils should wear masks in class, while still encouraging their use in corridors.

EXCLUSIVE: End of face masks in the classroom as Boris Johnson defies unions

04:30 AM

Sick climbers evacuated from Mt Everest

India's coronavirus outbreak has spread to neighbouring countries sharing its porous borders.

Nepal's main cities and towns have been in lockdown since last month as the number of cases and deaths continue to surge.

Nepal recorded its highest number of daily infections, 8,659, on Wednesday and 58 deaths, which was also a record.

Expedition tents at Everest Base Camp on May 1, in the Mt Everest region of Solukhumbu district, some 140km north-east of Nepal's capital Kathmandu - PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP
Expedition tents at Everest Base Camp on May 1, in the Mt Everest region of Solukhumbu district, some 140km north-east of Nepal's capital Kathmandu - PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP

There are reports that more than 30 sick climbers have been evacuated from Mt Everest.

Thousands of people rushed to leave Nepal ahead of a halt to all international flights because of the spike in cases.

Authorities in Nepal had eased quarantine rules this year in an effort to lure back foreign adventurers and had issued climbing permits to more than 400 people in a new record, AFP reported: "An Everest permit alone costs $11,000 and climbers pay upward of $40,000 for an expedition."

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04:00 AM

Sydney outbreak seems to have been contained

Meanwhile, Australian officials have reported that an outbreak in Sydney appears to be contained.

New South Wales health officials were still trying to track the missing links in the case of a 50-year-old man who was diagnosed earlier this week with an Indian variant of Covid-19 that he passed on to his wife.

Genomic sequencing had linked the case to a returned traveller from the United States, but there was no clear transmission path between the two people.

However, officials reported on Friday that more than 13,000 tests conducted over the past 24 hours had found no additional cases, easing concerns about a wider outbreak.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Thursday imposed new social distancing restrictions in greater Sydney, including mask wearing on public transport and limits on home gatherings.

With many people expected to gather over the weekend for annual Mother's Day celebrations, the restrictions are scheduled to remain in place until Monday morning.

“We may never find that missing link,” Ms Berejiklian said.

"That’s why we ask everybody to come forward and get tested. Every time there’s a positive case, we can match it to see if it’s part of the same strain."

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03:48 AM

PM says Australia will lift travel ban on India

Australia will lift a ban on its citizens returning from Covid-ravaged India in a week, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday.

Mr Morrison stood by his decision to impose a biosecurity order last month barring all travel to and from India, a policy that drew heavy criticism from lawmakers, expatriates and the Indian diaspora.

The PM said the travel ban, which was controversially backed by jail terms and financial penalties for those who attempted to circumvent it by flying via a third country, had prevented Australia's hotel quarantine system from being overwhelmed.

"The order that we have put in place has been highly effective, it’s doing the job that we needed it to do, and that was to ensure that we could do everything we can to prevent a third wave of Covid-19 here in Australia,” Mr Morrison said.

Australia will charter three repatriation flights between May 15 and 31, with some 900 people deemed most vulnerable expected to be prioritised.

03:32 AM

France reportedly delaying EU order for vaccine

France is delaying a European Union order for 1.8 billion doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer Covid vaccine planned for the next two years, Germany's Die Welt daily newspaper reported on Friday, citing EU diplomats.

The paper said it was unclear what the reason was for hesitation from Paris, but diplomats had speculated that it might want French companies to play a bigger part in the vaccine production.

The paper reported that at recent meetings about vaccine orders, French representatives had held up decision-making by posing technical questions and requests for clarifications.

Due to massive global demand for booster doses as well as vaccines for young people, EU governments fear that they may be too late and lose out on the order.

"That would be a disaster for which France would be responsible," Die Welt quoted one diplomat as saying.

01:12 AM

Japan may soon approve AstraZeneca vaccine

Plans still underway for Olympics - PHILIP FONG/AFP
Plans still underway for Olympics - PHILIP FONG/AFP

Japan's government may approve the use of coronavirus vaccines developed by AstraZeneca and Moderna as early as May 20, the Nikkei reported on Friday.

Health ministry officials plan to hold a meeting around that date to discuss approval.

The only coronavirus vaccine to have received Japanese approval so far is that developed by Pfizer and BioNTech.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has pledged to have enough vaccine doses for the country's 126 million people by June, before the July 23 start of the Tokyo Olympic Games.

01:06 AM

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